While the City-to-city races were primarily a French idea a new series of races were launched by James Gordon Bennett, an American newspaper tycoon. Bennett devised a formula to which all entrants had to adhere. It stipulated vehicle weight and required all entrants to be members of their national automobile club. These clubs were responsible for submitting entrants to the race and each country could only enter three cars. Initially the French were hostile to the idea, but soon changed their minds when they were allowed to host and organise the first race. Initially run alongside the city to city races the competition soon became popular and the field grew with each passing year.

The first race began on 14 June 1900 and ran from Paris to Lyon, a distance of 353 miles. The field consisted of just five cars and a Panhard 40, driven by Fernand Charron won with a time of just a little over 9 hours. It was decided that the home country of the wining driver would act as host for the following race and so it fell to France to stage the next event. That took place on 29 May 1901 between Paris and Bordeaux and it was another Frenchman, Léonce Giradot, who came home first. In fact Giradot was the sole finisher of the gruelling 327 mile event.

The following year the race was ran between Paris and Innsbruck as part of the Paris-Vienna race. Britain scored her first success in a major international race when Selwyn Edge brought his Napier home. He was the sole finisher, completing the 351 mile journey with a time of eleven hours. At this time racing on public roads was banned in England and so for 1903 the race was staged on a closed figure of eight circuit at Athy in Ireland. Victory went to Camille Jenatzy who finished around ten minutes ahead of his nearest rival. That meant that for 1904 the event would be staged in Germany. A road circuit was laid out just to the north of Frankfurt and the eventual winner was the Frenchman, Léon Théry, although it was a hard fought affair between Thery and second placed Jenatzy. For the final Gordon Bennett race the circus returned to France where Théry was again victorious on a road circuit close to Clermont Ferrand.
Despite only amounting to six events the Gordon Bennett Trophy was an important milestone in the history of racing as it represented the first true international racing series. Despite the fact that France had scored four wins from six the Automobile Club de France (ACF) continued to object to the limit of only three cars per nation. As a result the series came to an end and the Trophy found its final resting place in Paris, where it remains to this day, at the FIA headquarters.

The Gordon Bennett Trophy